Medici money : banking, metaphysics, and art in fifteenth-century Florence

by Tim Parks

Hardcover, 2005




New York : W. W. Norton & Co., c2005.


The Medici are famous as the rulers of Florence at the high point of the Renaissance. Their power derived from the family bank, and this book tells the fascinating, frequently bloody story of the family and the dramatic development and collapse of their bank (from Cosimo who took it over in 1419 to his grandson Lorenzo the Magnificent who presided over its precipitous decline). The Medici faced two apparently insuperable problems: how did a banker deal with the fact that the Church regarded interest as a sin and had made it illegal? How in a small republic like Florence could he avoid having his wealth taken away by taxation? But the bank became indispensable to the Church. And the family completely subverted Florence's claims to being democratic. They ran the city. Medici Money explores a crucial moment in the passage from the Middle Ages to the Modern world, a moment when our own attitudes to money and morals were being formed.To read this book is to understand how much the Renaissance has to tell us about our own world. Medici Money is one of the launch titles in a new series, Atlas Books, edited by James Atlas. Atlas Books pairs fine writers with stories of the economic forces that have shaped the world, in a new genre - the business book as literature.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member kukulaj
This was a great fun book. It's an easy introduction to 15th Century Florence. I've read bits and pieces here and there about that time and place, but this book put the pieces together nicely. Of course it is not a long book and not a dense book either, so it is far from comprehensive. Really it is more of a starting point, a trigger to go read more.

Egads I don't think I ever realized that the Pope that Luther fought against was the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent. How about that!

I did find the writing style of the book a bit annoying. There are sentence fragments all over the place. It's not carelessly done - it's too consistent for that. It's just sort of deliberately informal, chatty. It wasn't a total obstacle - it was clear enough what the author was saying.

There were many fun references to our current social/political environment. That's a major theme of the book, the way that 15th Century Florence was the birthplace of our modern society. Of course any such hypothesis has to be simplistic to the point almost of absurdity. But the cartoon starkness of it makes it clearer. Maybe the reader will be motivated to study further, to fill in the subtleties. How was Luther different than Savonarola?

The tight relationship between money - banking - and politics: that's the core of it. How money has erased old family power. (There's one of those sentence fragments!)

Ah, there was a sentence in the book somewhere... in a productive economy, banks can make money by investing in productive enterprises. When all the productivity has moved elsewhere, the only money to be made is by encouraging the powerful to overspend on grand gestures, military and otherwise. Definitely many pointed references to present circumstances, though not always clearly labeled as such!
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LibraryThing member morien
A pretentious title to a moderately well written but sometimes poorly edited book. Because unnatural. Yup, that's what got printed on page 193. Plus the author seems to have equated religion or the Catholic Church of the time with metaphyiscs. Or he just wanted to sound fancy. I think the book would have been better without the pretentiousness.

My biggest complaint is that if this is supposed to be a non-fiction work, then a true bibliography and a notes section should have been included. Instead there is a "Bibliographic Notes" section where he gives his opinion of other works on the Medici.
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LibraryThing member ksinats
The very thing that made the Medici rich (usury)made them vulnerable. The antidote, emblematic of the pragmatist patriarch Cosimo Medici, was to link their wealth to the public, cultural good. The other centrepiece in this story is the Renaissance with its accompanying inquiry into the nature of man, science and beauty (along with the predictably prickly relationship with the Church). Tim Parks is a wonderful raconteur and this book is another winner in his repetoire.… (more)
LibraryThing member adamclaxton
Tim Parks Medici Money is a somewhat peculiar look at the famed Medici family of renaissance Italy and the banking organization they were most recognized for. The book suffers from rather poor editing, with timeline jumps, poor sentencing and at times overbearing waffle - his explanation of monetary connections between the Medici provincial banks left me confused. His writing style doesn’t seem too far removed from that of a script to a light hearted documentary. I would say this is a good introduction to the 15th century Europe and the fame Medici family but sadly nothing more.… (more)



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